Over the summer, I attended a meetup in NYC conducted by Jesse Freeman about polishing your game. He had many good insights and I’d like to share one of them with you that really took City Birds to the next level: polishing your Menu screen.
Basically the idea is to get movement on your Menu screen. It could be anything from a blinking Start button to having the individual elements slide into position from offscreen. That movement or animation, even if it’s very minimal has a big impact on the look and feel of the game.
Up until that meetup, I had been working hard on my gameplay without really considering the Menu screen. I planned on having the game logo with a big Play button and any other buttons I needed I would somehow “fit in” somewhere.
After that meetup, I sat down and completely redesigned my Menu screen to fit the feel of the game. I pulled in one of the buildings I was using in-game and put a birdcage (with a bird occupant) on the roof. This already hints to the gameplay inside where you will be dragging the birds into these cages. I also carried the “city” theme through by making my buttons actual street signs that you would see in a city.
Bringing in the Movement
I was happy with the look so it was time to get on to the movement. Using the transition library that Corona offers, I was easily able to make the street signs slide in from the left and the building slide in from the right. Voila! Instant action! Then for a little effect, I had the other 2 buttons on the bottom slide in last, just to stack the animation so everything didn’t happen at once.
Now that I was happy with the finished Menu screen, I wanted to up the ante a little bit. How about having the birds actually flying through the screen? I already had the code to make them fly so why not try it here? Turns out, it looked really cool. The Menu screen had constant movement now… once the birds reached the end of the screen they would reappear from the left again. It really brought the game to life.
Finally, I tried adding the whole dragging mechanic to the birds on the menu screen. While I liked it at first, I decided it was too much and took it out. I also wanted to create a 3D feel with some birds off in the distance that would fly behind the building, so the dragging just didn’t make sense.
The final touch I added may not be noticed by many but it’s pretty cool. In City Birds, you can unlock more and more birds. I decided once you unlock a bird in the game, they would also unlock on the menu screen. So once you unlock a bird or two, look close and you should see your new friend flying happily about on the Menu screen.
All in all, I’m very happy with the way the final Menu screen came out and it is much better than what I had originally planned. All from just trying to get a little movement into my Menu screen. A good lesson to take away is that you’re not finished after all the gameplay has been coded and the game is playing just right. Don’t forget to make the wrapper look just as good.